Hyderbad/Nagpur: Students scuffled with police on Tuesday outside Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya’s residence in Hyderabad as protests erupted for the second day over the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, an incident which has triggered outrage across the country.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also headed for Hyderabad on Tuesday to express solidarity with Dalit students, five of whom were suspended allegedly after Dattatreya wrote to Union human resources development minister Smriti Irani describing the university a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.
Congress sources said that besides addressing students at the varsity, Gandhi will also meet Rohith’s mother Radhika.
The visit by Gandhi, who will be accompanied by senior party leader Digvijiya Singh, is seen as an attempt by the Congress to mount pressure on the BJP-led NDA government over the incident.
Read | Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya charged for Dalit scholar suicide, probe ordered
Sources said that on Tuesday morning a large number of students assembled outside the residence of Dattatreya – charged with abetting the suicide by Rohith – and shouted slogans against him.
TV footage showed some of the students being dragged away by police.
Anger and tension continued to grip the varsity a day after hundreds of students clashed with security personnel over the death of Rohith while authorities clamped prohibitory orders. The issue resonated in Delhi too where police fired water cannons at several groups demonstrating outside the human resource development ministry’s office.
Rohith’s mother also sat on a dharna on the campus along with several students and Dalit leaders, saying she wouldn’t move until vice-chancellor Appa Rao explained the reasons behind suspending her son.
With the incident sending ripples in academic circles across the country, the ministry has formed a two-member committee to probe the incident.
The campus continued to simmer while students in different parts of Telangana took to the streets, burning effigies of the central government and condemning what they called was growing saffronisation of education.
The joint action committee comprising the Ambedkar Students’ Association — to which the five suspended students belong — and other groups took out a rally in the university on Monday evening. The groups made it clear that they will continue the protest till the guilty are brought to book and justice is done to the family of Rohith.
The JAC termed the suicide an “institutional murder” and sought immediate action against Dattatreya.
What has come under sharp criticism is the suspension of the students and their “social boycott” on the campus after intervention by the central minister, though the students were let off with a warning by two proctorial board committees, which also did not find any evidence of ABVP leader Sushil Kumar being beaten up by ASA students.
Balladeer Vimalakka demanded immediate resignation of the vice-chancellor. “This is not the first suicide by a Dalit student here. Twelve students have ended their lives due to the harassment by university authorities,” she said.
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the ruling party in Telangana, has launched an attack against the two central ministers. TRS MP K. Kavitha said it was because of the pressure they brought on the university authorities that the students were suspended and were expelled from the hostel.
The Congress party demanded sacking of Dattatreya from the union ministry for interference in university affairs.
MIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said Dalit students were subjected to the worst kind of treatment and alleged that the BJP-led government was trying to turn the campuses into ABVP dens.